To be perfectly honest, I was unsure of what to expect out of this film. All I could say is that it would be a bit like The Golden Compass which is what it did turn out to be. The only difference is that The Golden Compass was a lot better. City Of Ember is one of those films that are visually amazing but doesn't greatly focus on the plot and characters. I enjoyed it for its effects but as far as the story and characters are concerned it isn't good. It is a really fun film for the family but nothing else. The visual effects are absolutely amazing!! As far as I'm concerned, it is The Golden Compass of 2008.
Despite it only been 1 year after Atonement, Saoirse Ronan seems almost like a totally different person because she has grown so much. She was good in this film but it seems a little out of her league so to speak because I prefer her in dramas. She was outstanding in Atonement which lead to her first Oscar nomination and I am excited about seeing her in Peter Jackson's upcoming film The Lovely Bones. Bill Murray is a fantastic actor and I think he was miscast in this one too. Tim Robbins made an appearance in this film. Despite he wasn't in that many scenes of the film he still was miscast just like everybody in this film was.
Gil Kenan is a director of extraordinary visual effects in his own way. His work in Monster House is awesome! However, his work in City Of Ember wasn't as good this time because the film was way more focused on the effects more than the actual story and characters within the film. Sometimes, this kind of thing works but it doesn't quite work in this film. For example, it did in The Golden Compass because the story was very interesting and kept me going all the way through whereas this one didn't very much at all.
Overall, City Of Ember is an average film that I loved for the effects but hated for the story and characters within it. It isn't a bad film and it isn't a good film either. It is a good film for the family but I don't think everyone within it will like this one. I wouldn't recommend it and I wouldn't say it's a film you should avoid either.